Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Astana strong-arms Team Time Trial, Lance misses yellow by a bee’s…um, whisker

There’s not much of TourdeCouch’s enamel left after the nail gnawing conclusion of last night’s team time trial.

Astana triumphed over Garmin-Slipstream in what proved to be a tough team time trial course. Last out, Astana knew Garmin-Slipstream’s time of 46:47 was the one to beat. And by the last check, everyone knew Lance needed to finish in 46:29 to nab yellow from Cancellara.

Astana finished in 46:29:32.

Then we had to wait for the countback! More nails gone. The verdict? Fabian Cancellara kept yellow!!!

Astana’s methodical study and over and over again practice on the course as a team clearly paid off. After witnessing them move as one around those bends and narrow roads, is it really that hard to believe Astana is united? Could the “internal rivalry” just be a ruse? Probably not.

Here’s the TTT results:
1. Astana 46.29
2. Garmin-Slipstream .18
3. Team Saxo Bank .40
4. Liquigas .58
5. Columbia-HTC .59
6. Team Katusha 1.23
7. Caisse d'Epargne 1.39
8. Cervélo TestTeam 1.37
9. AG2R La Mondiale 1.48
10. Euskatel-Euskadi 2.09
11. Rabobank 2.38
12. Quick Step 2.44
13. Silence-Lotto 2.35
14. Française des Jeux 2.46
15. Team Milram 2.48
16. Cofidis 2.58
17. Lampre-NGC 3.24
18. Agritubel 4.17
19. BBox Bouygues Telecom 4.41
20. Skil-Shimano 5.23

And how the GC looks now:

2. ARMSTRONG Lance ASTANA + 00' 00"
3. CONTADOR Alberto ASTANA + 00' 19"
4. KLÖDEN Andréas ASTANA + 00' 23"
5. LEIPHEIMER Levi ASTANA + 00' 31"
6. WIGGINS Bradley GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 00' 38"
7. ZUBELDIA Haimar ASTANA + 00' 51"
8. MARTIN Tony TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 00' 52"
10. MILLAR David GARMIN - SLIPSTREAM + 01' 07"
16. ROGERS Michael TEAM COLUMBIA - HTC + 01' 32"
20. SCHLECK Andy TEAM SAXO BANK + 01' 41"
25. SCHLECK Frank TEAM SAXO BANK + 02' 17"
29. SASTRE Carlos CERVELO TEST TEAM + 02' 44"
35. EVANS Cadel SILENCE - LOTTO + 02' 59"

Other observations from the couch:
Columbia was disappointing in 5th place. Maybe Stage 3 did hurt them or maybe they were just having one of those days.

Garmin-Slipstream dropped four riders quite early implementing the theory “less is more” on such a technical time trial. It too seemed to pay off. They rode a good TT; noone was going to beat Astana yesterday.

Stage 2 may not have made me eat my chamois, but Cervelo might about Gerro– sure Sastre lost some time, but they went better than I expected. I will wait until after the mountains though to get out the condiments.

Liquigas also were a revelation.

Menchov is still thinking pink – he lost it on one of the first few corners costing him even more time. He has slipped to 72nd place at 3:52 down.

Silence Lotto had a shocker. Cadel is 35th at almost 3 minutes down, 12th among the GC contenders. Even if he had gone with the split on Stage 3, he'd still be looking at 2:20 down.

Today proved that knowing every nuance of a technical time trial course and riding it together over and over really does pay off and other teams with GC contenders should’ve done the same.

Lots crashed - Bbox rider Bonnet found a ditch on the side of the road. Silence-Lotto,Rabobank…I lost count in the end.

Agritubel won the prize for “best disco helmet.”

And did you hear this rumour: After failing to win yellow yesterday, Contador and Lance allegedly revealed their Blair-Brown style agreement made over margueritas in restaurant “Tex Mex-alicous.” Apparently Contador said “Don't tell anyone, but we agreed Lance would wear yellow for a few days to sell off signed jerseys for cancer etc, and I would really be the leader in the mountains and bring us home to Paris. Why else do you think I let him go in Stage 3? But now, who knows what’s going to happen.” Not credible? :-)

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